In Defence of Liberty

  • Terence H. Qualter


As might be expected of a person of his background, Wallas became involved in a large number of ‘civil rights’ causes. His life was motivated by a deep passion for social equality. As Laski said of him, ‘He hated privilege with something of the fine indignation of his own hero, Bentham.’1 He was constantly defending minorities, supporting the oppressed, championing the victims of social injustice. His principal enemies were the established Church and its ‘dead hand of tradition’ which lay heavy on the advocates of progress, the newspaper barons who manipulated public opinion in their own interest, and all who opposed, or feared, the unbiased search after truth. In 1929 for example, he led, and was the principal spokesman for, a deputation to the Home Secretary on behalf of the Society for the Abolition of the Blasphemy Laws, urging the repeal of laws which still permitted prosecution for attacking the doctrines of the established Church.2 In 1916 he was one of the defenders of Bertrand Russell, protesting the British Government’s refusal to allow Russell a passport to visit the United States because of Russell’s opposition to the war. On this issue, in a letter to the Home Secretary, Herbert Samuel, Wallas wrote:

By refusing to allow a leading English philosopher to take up an American chair without pledging himself to say nothing in dispraise of British policy in the future — whatever that policy may be — the Government advertise the fact no American must take the statement of any Englishmen who is allowed to come as being sincere and unbiased. The Americans believe that they are being treated like children, and that something is being hidden from them.3


Good Society Moral Conviction Individual Liberty Social Planning Great Society 
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Copyright information

© Terence H. Qualter 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terence H. Qualter
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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